Within-person variability in performance across school subjects

Megan Wright*, Sophie von Stumm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although thought to be substantial, within-person variability in performance across school subjects has not been systematically studied. Here we analysed data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS; Nmax = 5919) to describe within-person variability across grades in English, maths, and science from age 7 to 16 years. We found that within-person grade variability was largely unstable across subjects and ages. Within-person grade variability at age 16 was not associated with any of 15 variables that typically explain between-person differences in school performance (e.g. IQ, socioeconomic status, and personality traits). Also, within-person grade variability did not predict later educational outcomes at ages 18 and 21. Within-person grade variability is observable, but did not emerge in this study as a meaningful psychological construct. We conclude that understanding the causes and consequences of within-person grade variability is possibly of limited epistemological value.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102091
Number of pages7
JournalLearning and individual differences
Early online date16 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the TEDS twins and their parents for their ongoing contributions to the study. TEDS is supported by the UK Medical Research Council ( MR/M021475/1 and previously G0901245 ), with additional support from the US National Institutes of Health ( AG046938 ) and the European Commission ( 602768 ; 295366 ). MW is supported by Hogan Assessments . SvS is supported by a Jacobs Foundation Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Educational outcomes
  • Grades
  • School performance
  • Within-person variability

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